When I first started playing Hearthstone two years ago I was determined not to spend money on a new game. Hearthstone was a fun, quality, interactive card game that could be played with no initial investment. I soon discovered, however, that I would need to spend some money on powerful cards that I did not have yet if I wanted to reach the high levels of the ladder. Arena, on the other hand, did not require new cards. In fact, through the arena drafting mechanism, I could play with very powerful cards well out of my budget. Every few days I would complete enough daily challenges to afford an arena run, and boy was it a blast. Not only could I play with awesome cards, but I got rewards at the end – namely, more gold to purchase more arena runs, and card packs to help me transition into a ladder player.
Arena is a great way for newer players to learn the game, learn about concepts like tempo and card advantage, and also to have fun. However, it can sometimes be confusing for newer players to understand how to properly draft an arena deck. Last week I completed my second 12-win arena run (post Whispers of the Old Gods expansion). I had multiple 12-win runs before, but this run was particularly special because it was my first perfect 12-0 run. In this article, I am going to use my 12-0 deck as a guide to break down some of the dos and don’ts of arena drafting. Keep in mind, my deck is not perfect. I have some low-quality cards that I would have loved to replace with something better. I will be the first to admit that going 12-0 requires quite a bit of luck – regardless of your skill level. That said, a good arena deck does not have to be perfect, but should contain some similar elements. What follows is not an exhaustive guide to creating the perfect arena deck, but rather, some useful guidelines and benchmarks for newer players the next time they try out the arena.
Picking a hero
Yes, some heroes are better than others in arena. Yes, even the “lower class heroes” are capable of 12 wins. No, you cannot always pick the best heroes. That said, for beginners, I would recommend trying to stick with Mage, Rogue, or Paladin as they are currently the most consistently powerful. They have hero powers that directly affect the board and their common class cards are some of the most powerful in the game. The addition of some very powerful common Shaman class cards in the latest expansion has brought the Shaman power level up a bit, but it still seems to be just behind the elite tier at this point. For newer players: never pick the Priest. It’s possible to draft a good deck, but it typically requires a great deal of advanced skill to pilot the deck to a reasonable win rate.
Understanding the type of deck you are playing
The second step to creating a good arena deck is understanding the type of deck you are trying to play. Much of that will be dictated by your card selection as your draft. For instance, if you are being presented with an abundance of low cost aggressive minions, you should keep drafting an aggressive deck. Too many players just try to pick the “best” card available each time. Always remember: you’re not trying to draft the best 30 cards, you’re trying to draft 30 cards that form a cohesive deck. The more cohesion and synergy your deck has, the better it will perform. Similarly, don’t try to play your deck against its own strategy. If you drafted an aggressive deck, don’t play the deck as though it were a control deck. As you begin to draft, keep an eye on what type of cards you are picking up and what strategy might be best as you continue to draft cards.
In my 12-0 run, I picked a mage, and was rewarded by selecting some great class cards (Flamestrike, Fireball, and Polymorph) in the first few selections. For me, it was clear the strategy with this run would be a control Mage. As such, I tried to check off the following boxes as I drafted.
Even with a control deck, having early drops is critical. Arena, for the most part, is about tempo and board control. If you lose the board and your opponents overrun you with minions, you are almost always going to lose. Therefore, you will want to be sure you have some solid minions to play on turns one, two, and three.
In my deck, I was able to get three one-mana minions, and six two-mana minions. As you can see, that constitutes almost a third of my deck, even one that is largely control-oriented! Having two Mana Wyrms and six other options in the two-drop spot was crucial for me to control the board (or at least keep up on the board) so I could survive until my later turns where I would have the advantage.
Multiple Target Removal (AOE)
AOE, or Area of Effect cards, are board clears that do damage to all minions (or all of your opponent’s minions). Board clears are incredibly difficult to come upon in arena, so it is almost always correct to select a board clear if the option is presented to you. These board clears allow you to clear out your opponent’s board, often killing multiple minions for just one card. In my deck, I had two AOE cards. My three-mana Twilight Flamecaller was very useful in helping to clear out small minions during the early parts of the game when my opponent tried to simply flood the board with one-health minions. Most notably, Flamestrike gave me the ability to clear off many minions – one time I cleared off six enemy minions with this one card!
Single Target Removal
Single target removal cards allow you to deal with big threats that your opponent might play against you. Typically, most arena decks don’t run that many giant threats, so you might not need as much removal as I had here, but again, having the right removal at your disposal can often just win you a game outright. In my deck, I had three Polymorphs, a Fireball, and a Flamelance. Once I was able to delay to the late game and my opponent started dropping large threats, I could clear them out very easily using these cards, essentially wasting my opponent’s card and turn.
Taunts or Healing
Most great arena decks have either taunt or healing to provide longevity and prevent your opponent from rushing you down. While I did not have any healing, I had five premium taunt minions. The Evil Heckler and Fen Creeper proved immensely valuable in trading with multiple small minions, but the real MVPs of this deck were the three Bog Creepers. Bog Creeper is a new card, and I cannot say enough good things about it. The stats are large enough to be a threat on its own, and the taunt prevents a tremendous amount of damage to your own hero.
Ultimately, as I mentioned before, any 12-0 deck is going to need a lot of luck. In at least two games, I happened to draw the exact card I needed at the exact time I needed. That said, those opportunities only presented themselves in the first place because I understood what type of deck I was playing, what my outs were, and how to play with what I had (and hope I happen to pick up the right card in the next turn or two). I hope that you can use some of these guidelines to improve your arena play and have more fun in an incredibly enjoyable and interactive game mode.
If you are interested in getting better at arena, I would recommend checking out:
(1) Kripparian’s YouTube channel
Kripp is a streamer that I watch all the time. He’s one of, if not the single most popular Hearthstone streamer around, and his focus is mostly on the arena side of the game. Check out his YouTube videos here and his twitch channel here.
(2) Hearthstone Arena Reddit